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Almirola leads RPM front row at Charlotte

Five-time champion Jimmie Johnson will start from third place, and will be joined on the second row by Championship points leader Greg Biffle.

"Our qualifying effort this year has been improving week in and week out," said Johnson. "I can't express enough how important that is on pit road and late in the race. It just opens up so many options for you on two versus four tyres.

"I'm very proud of the effort today," he added. "I wish we were a little faster but those RPM guys seem to have a little chunk of speed on the field all day long," he said, pointing out that Ambrose had earlier set the top time in practice as well. "I'm happy for those guys, it's a smaller team that is working hard and I know it's a big day for them. I wish it was us, but we will come back and learn a little more Saturday and go racing.”

The drivers get Friday off but have two full practice sessions on Saturday, before the race itself on Sunday evening with the green flag scheduled for shortly after 5.30pm local time (10.30pm BST).

Danica Patrick, having opted to forego any one-off return to open wheel racing at this year's Indianapolis 500 held earlier on the same day, will start from 40th position after making the grid based on car owner points.

That's one row ahead of Kurt Busch, who was the biggest casualty of qualifying after hitting the wall in turn 2 and then rebounding into a hard nose-first hit on the inside wall on his qualifying run, meaning he will need to race the back-up car for the weekend.

"Sorry, guys," radioed Busch, who like Danica had to rely on car owner points to make the starting grid. Trevor Bayne was the highest-placed driver in 11th to qualify on speed alone. Missing out on a Sunday shift were David Reutimann, JJ Yeley, Mike Bliss and Scott Riggs.

Full qualifying and Thursday practice times.




Related Pictures

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Kurt Busch after spinning the #51 Phoenix Construction Services Chevrolet in qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 U.S. Air Force Ford, poses after qualifying for the pole position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday in Concord, N.C. (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Patriotic Chevrolet, is involved in an on-track incident during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, and Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, lead the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Matt Kenseth, driver of the #20 DeWalt Toyota, leads the field through the green flag to start the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)
Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet, Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John`s Chevrolet, and Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Office Toyota, lead the field into turn one during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Matt Sullivan/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Carl Edwards, driver of the #19 Subway Toyota, places the winner`s decal on his car after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 24, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Sarah Crabill/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser/Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, finished in ninth place, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Quicken Loans Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a sixth place finish, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Martin Truex, Jr, driver of the #78 Furniture Row/Visser Precision Chevrolet SS, stops in his pit on his way to a fifth place finish, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Andrew Coppley/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS, finished in third place, Sunday, May 24, 2015, in the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, North Carolina. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Austin Dillon, driver of the #33 Rheem Chevrolet, leads a pack of cars during the NASCAR XFINITY Series Hisense 300 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on May 23, 2015 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo Credit: Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

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